How to make proper iced tea

29 Jan

When I was a young boy, I played the silver – erm.

Actually – when I was young we’d make iced tea in large glass jars, left outside for a day to fend against the sun. I remember my juvenile pallette finding the taste delicious if sort of odd, but years of crappy canned Iced Tea had put a fairly thorough wedge between me and the gentleperson’s beverage. Oh, over the years there was the occasional fling, Arizona Iced Tea briefly held my attention, although a few bad run ins with tinny cans, (I should have known to stick to the bottles!), and the affair was over.

Then, without really intending too, I fell in love all over again. On a trip to North Carolina I was suddenly immersed in The Great Brown. I’ve little experience of the American South in general, but I can say that Charlotte seemed to run on iced tea in the way that I might imagine Seattle to run on coffee. Worst of all, the stuff was delicious. After returning home I immediately began experimenting in an attempt to recreate what I’d just witnessed, and so began a long trail of not-quite-rights. I moved from heat brewing, to sun brewing and back again.

Finally, synthesizing two different techniques I’d encountered on the internet, I arrived at my goal:

Iced Tea

  • Get a small pot, something you might cook a single can of soup in, and fill it with water.
  • Toss in 5 tea bags of Orange Pekoe. (Lipton is good, sort of creamy. Tetley is also good, although drier. I have yet to try the fabled Luzianne.)
  • Put the pot on a burner turned to high.
  • When the water begins to boil, turn off the heat and scoop the tea bags.
  • Transfer the tea concentrate into a jug already containing at least an equal amount of room temperature water. I actually tend to make this cool water, as I like to get to my tea sooner, but it can make your tea cloudy.
  • Put it in the fridge.

All right, fine, but if you drink that it will be fairly disgusting. There are still two more critical components to go:

Sugar Syrup

  • Using a 2:1 ratio of sugar:water, obtain the pan of your choice.
  • Combine (2 cups of sugar for 1 cup of water may seem lopsided, but trust me.) over high heat.
  • Stir. Stir. Stir.
  • Prepare yourself to experience the wonder you usually can’t get from anything short of an 8th grade science experiment:  Stir until it’s clear. (You’ll know it when it happens).
  • Transfer to dispensing device. (Honestly, I tend to use measuring cups.)
  • Store in fridge.

At this point some people dump their syrup straight into their mix, but I feel the amount of sugar in your iced tea is a deeply personal decision. You’ll also want to have lemon, wedges if you’re fancy, squirt bottle if you’re a realist. When you go to prep your cup just lay out a glass of ice, give it two quick squirts of juice, a dollop of sugar syrup and cover in tea. Give it a bit of a stir and if it doesn’t taste quite right, add some more sugar. If it tastes too sugary give it another half squirt of lemon.

2 Responses to “How to make proper iced tea”

  1. George Mann January 29, 2009 at 16:02 #

    Dear JDR,
    I am interested in your comments on sun-brewed iced tea concentrate. I am the brand manager for a manufacture of iced tea concentrate that is sold to beverage marketers. Our products are produced on equipment originally utilized by the pharmaceutical industry. It is quite sanitary… this is the point I want to make. Sun tea is dangerous…

    Here is an excerpt from the University of Washington report:

    WSU/Whatcom County Cooperative Extension
    1000 N Forest Street, Suite 201, Bellingham WA 98225-5594
    Phone: 360/676-6736
    FAX: 360/738-2458

    Safe Iced Tea Brewing and Handling Guidelines
    Brewed tea is capable of supporting bacterial growth. Tea leaves can become contaminated with bacteria during the growing, harvesting and drying process. Once prepared, brewed tea has often been left at room temperature for hours before ice is added and served.
    Tea should be brewed with water hot enough to kill microorganisms. Making “sun tea” by steeping tea bags in containers of water warmed by the sun is higher risk of bacterail growth because the tea is brewed at low temperatures.
    Be sure tea servers are cleaned regularly. Do not store brewed tea at room temperature for more than 8 hours. Avoid consuming cloudy tea with an off odor.
    Washington State University suggest the following recommendations regarding proper tea preparation.
    Guidelines for safe tea brewing and handling:
    Brew tea with boiling or very hot water (175 degrees F or hotter).
    After tea is brewed, it is best to refrigerate until served.
    In commercial establishments, wash, rinse, and sanitize the tea urn or service container daily, including the spigot. At home be sure to wash the tea container between uses.
    The Tea Association of the USA, Inc. suggests these steps in making traditional steeped iced tea. This method makes 1 gallon of brewed iced tea from each one ounce tea bag used. (four regular-sized tea bags may be subsituted for the 1-ounce size.)
    Place one 1-ounce tea bag into a clean sanitized container for each gallon of iced tea desired.
    Pour one quart of boiling (or greater than 175 degrees F) water for each tea bag used and steep for 3 – 5 minutes. Minimally, tea leaves must be exposed to water at a temperature of 175 degrees F for approximately 5 minutes.
    Remove tea bag and add 3 quarts of fresh; cold water to yield one gallon of iced tea.
    Hot tea cooled rapidly may become cloudy due to tannins (released from the steeped tea) precipitating out of solution. One way to avoid cloudiness is to steep tea with very hot water (greater than 175 degrees F) but not boiling and add cool water to the tea concentrate to bring the temperature down gradually before refrigerating

  2. How to squirt February 22, 2009 at 11:50 #

    Lol…I searched for ‘How to squirt’ and landed here.

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